How to Use Lightroom to Convey Mood

August 27, 2019

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the ‘mood’ of a photo. You know they say a picture is worth a thousand words, after all! I believe this is why so much stock photography and blog imagery is always really white, light and bright. There’s no character to it, because they don’t want to inadvertently convey any particular mood or message. It’s non-offensive and usually quite literal. Now this is perfect for some businesses, and it’s quite easy to capture yourself. You just need a well-lit space, a white background, some props and a basic editing program to whiten, lighten and bright.

There’s nothing wrong with this style of photography - it’s popular for a reason! But what if you want to say more? What if you want to stand out in some way and break the mold a little bit? The mood or message your photos convey has a lot to do with the content first and foremost, plus the composition and lighting. Playing with light and shadows while taking the photo can have a huge affect on the end result. But there’s also quite a lot you can do with the mood of the photo in your photo editing app. Lightroom is my preferred photo editor, but the principles will remain the same across them all.

Lightroom Edits Original
The Original

Let me show you what I mean. This photo is taken straight from the camera; all I’ve done is crop it. I took this photo on my Sony A6000, on full auto mode (for simplicity) in RAW format. However this is one I could have just as easily taken on my phone! I choose to shoot in RAW because it’s more flexible and forgiving for mistakes; something I need as someone who regularly shoots alone in public with little to no equipment. If your device has the option to shoot in RAW (most cameras and some phones), I encourage you to give it a go! This photo is a little "blah" but this was taken on a sunny day, with good natural lighting.

Lightroom Edits Bare Minimum
The Bare Minimum Edit

All I've done is exaggerated some of the colours, giving more of a “pop” to the image. To me, this increases the “commerciality” of the image. This kind of edit is ideal for product photography where you don’t want to change the colours and details too much (for example, when modelling clothes). In my opinion, doing these kinds of edits are the minimum you should be doing to your photos. It doesn’t have to be this exactly, but by adjusting the contrast, exposure and saturation, you can take the original to the next level. It just makes it more visually appealing, I suppose!

I won’t give exact details for what I’ve done (because how much you increase contrast or reduce shadows will change for every photo), but to give a basic summary:

  • Increased contrast
  • Increased whites
  • Slightly decreased blacks
  • Raised midtones slightly using the Point Curve tool
  • Increased saturation
  • Decreased Orange saturation using the Color Mixer
  • Slightly increased the Red saturation
  • Slightly Increased the Green hue and decreased the Green saturation

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Lightroom Edits Laurafcreates
The laurafcreates Edit

This photo is how I (currently) edit my photos for the laurafcreates Instagram and this website. I chose this aesthetic because to me, it’s calm and cosy without being shadow-y or dark. Living in Brisbane, I naturally get a lot of really bright photos with good colour detail. However by reducing the vibrancy of my photos, I’m also able to introduce darker lit photos as well without breaking my aesthetic too much.

To summarise:

  • Slightly increased exposure and contrast
  • Reduced highlights all the way
  • Darkened the shadows
  • Increased whites
  • Shifted the tint towards pink very slightly
  • Increased vibrance (vibrance adjusts midtones without over or under saturating too much)
  • Slightly decreased saturation
  • Adjusted the hue, saturation and luminance of Blue, Teal, Green, Yellow and Orange using the Colour Mixer
  • Added a reddish tone to the highlights using the Split Tone
  • Added a light blue tone to the shadows using the Split TonGe

Lightroom Edits Laurareflected
The laurareflected Edit

Adding colourful highlights and shadows with the split tone tool is an amazing way to change the mood of your photo. This is further explored in this photo. This is actually how I edit my photos on my personal Instagram account which was formerly laurareflected. Because of how custom and extreme this edit is, it is harder to explain, but I’ll do my best. I really enjoy the warmer tones and desaturated colours of this edit. If you visit my Instagram you’ll see this aesthetic really makes the blue skies of Brisbane pop. It works really well with blue and orange objects.

To summarise:

  • Increased contrast, whites and blacks
  • Reduced highlights and lightened shadows
  • Raised midtones and lowlights and darkened highlights using the Point Curve
  • Moved tint to pink slightly
  • Reduced vibrance and saturation
  • Adjusted all colours in the Colour Mixer
  • Added an orange tone to the highlights using the Split Tone
  • Added a green tone to the shadows
  • Sharpened the image and increased the noise reduction

Lightroom Edits Dark Blue
The Dark Blue Edit

Now for the next few photos, I just had a bit of fun. These two photos are here to demonstrate how Lightroom can change the mood of a photo; even a well lit one like this one. On the first one, the highlights, shadows, whites and blacks have all been reduced, to varying degrees. The exposure was actually increased on this one, as was the contrast. I moved the entire line of the point curve down, and decreased the vibrancy. The saturation and luminancy of Blue were shifted up in the Color Mixer and a strong dark blue shadow was added to the Split Tone.

Lightroom Edits Dark
The Darkest Edit

For this darker one, I only shifted the shadows and blacks down slightly, while increasing the whites slightly. A snake like curve was added to the Point Curve with no changes to the saturation or vibrancy. Orange saturation and luminancy was shifted down in the Color Mixer; this is what has caused the wooden floorboards to change colour to a much darker wood tone! The Blue luminancy was taken all the way down, with a slight decrease in the saturation.

So with all these edits, I hope I’ve shown you just how much control you can have over your aesthetic using a photo editor! You have permission to stand out from the crowd and experiment with the mood and message you want to convey. Let me know which edit you liked the best! You can download the RAW file of this image in the Members Area to play around with in Lightroom and try to replicate my edits. I’d love to see the results too: either send them to my email, or if you choose to post them on the ‘gram, make sure you tag me @laurafcreates and #laurafcreatesedits so I can see it!

Cheers, Laura x

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How to use Lightroom to better convey mood in your photos
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Laura F Gosney
Hey, I'm Laura
I’m a Soulful Brand and Website Designer specialising in creating beautiful, personality-driven brands that showcase how remarkable you truly are.

For more than 5 years, I’ve worked with innovative e-commerce founders, passionate service-based businesses, and inspiring creatives to capture the remarkable soul of their work and transform that into a brand and website they can feel proud of.
Find out how I can help
I acknowledge the First Nations people as the Traditional Owners of the land on which I live and work, i.e. Meanjin, Brisbane. Sovereignty was never ceded.
Copyright © 2023 Laura F Gosney ABN: 88 413 183 164

Words by Brit Stevens
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